Today is the first Sunday in Advent. While our society has been gearing up for Christmas for weeks, for Christians, “traditionally” the season begins a little slower and a little more reflective. Each week, a candle is lit as a way of counting down until the nativity of Jesus.
Each candle focuses on some promise of God that keeps us moving toward the gift of Emmanuel, God-with-us. The first Sunday of Advent, the candle is the candle of Hope.
I don’t know about you, but I need hope. I am not naturally a “hope-less” person. The world, however, is relentless in its violence, its chaos and its craziness. Two short weeks ago there were terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris. Boko Haram continues to terrorize countries in Africa, racial unrest in Chicago and other American cities and then a shooting where three people died and nine people were injured at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs.
When will it end? How will end? I don’t know the answers to those questions, what I know is that as a person of faith I am called to have hope. The season of Advent is all about hope, in the one who came a long time ago and hope for the time that is coming when justice, righteousness, peace and love will reign for all people. Anne Lamott puts it this way:
I don’t want to give into to despair or to give into fear. All the “angel” stories start out with “Do not be afraid.” It is the basic message of God to God’s beloved children. Hope does not give into fear. Hope leads us into faith, into love and into trusting the grace God has for us in the midst of life’s craziness.
I am not interested in something simplistic and silly. I want hope that means something. I want hope that isn’t into some kind of game where there are winners and losers. I want hope that points to something more mysterious and wonderful than I can possibly imagine.
So I come into the season of Advent hungry for a Hope that leads to justice, to peace and to love. So I always begin the season with the ancient hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” The band Sugarland sings this as well as any I know. Their rendition is hauntingly beautiful. Listening to them sing, I offer my longing for peace as a prayer for hope, not just sometime in the future, but for this moment, this day and this season.